“Even Though Social Media Has Taken Over, Sometimes The Old-Fashioned Way Is Still The Best” Words of Wisdom with Rhonda Rees

“In-person networking is still one of the very best ways to get and keep clients. Even though social media has taken over, sometimes the old-fashioned way is still the best. Making eye contact with a person, and returning phone calls and messages today is almost a dying art. In our fast-paced world, many people think it’s acceptable to ignore someone by not getting back in a timely manner. When starting out, I never would have considered that this could now become the norm. In my opinion, sending out thank you notes and cards in the mail should never become a thing of the past.”
I had the pleasure to interview Rhonda Rees. Rhonda is an award-winning PR expert, author, speaker and advocate, in charge of Rhonda Rees Public Relations Company, and Aseity Press Publishing. She was named Publicist of the Year by the Bulldog Reporter publication for her online book piracy PSA awareness campaign, and IRWIN (Industry Recognition for Writers in the News) award-winner Publicist of the Year from the Book Publicists of Southern California.

What is your “back story”?

I have been involved in the public relations business for a number of years, and have written an award-winning book, Profit and Prosper with Public Relations®: Insider Secrets to Make You a Success. Right in the midst of promoting my work, I ran Google searches to see how the sales were doing online. To my surprise, that’s when I saw that my book, along with thousands of others was being offered as a “FREE” download without my knowledge or permission. My work was copyrighted, and the title trademarked and registered in the United States. I thought that protected me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Many of these unscrupulous companies are located in foreign countries. China, France, the Netherlands, and Germany are some personal examples. One site claimed to have given away 600 copies of my book, and another one allegedly offered 1,500 copies, with still more to come.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on?

I decided to put my PR skills to the test; appearing on radio and TV as an advocate for awareness of this growing albeit largely unexplored issue. I also contributed feature articles for publications including IP Watchdog, offering solid tips and information to help authors and publishers better combat this problem. I made contact with organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce Global IP Center in Washington DC, the Authors Guild of America and the Copyright Clearance Center. I have also created the “Check Your Books” PSA awareness campaign for the month of April to coincide with World Book and Copyright Day (April 23) and World IP Day (April 26). I ask authors to run detailed Google or Bing searches by plugging in their name, the title of their book and the word “free downloads” to see what pops up.

Which person or which company do you most admire and why?

The person I admire most is Bob Geldof for his pioneering activism and anti-poverty efforts to help raise money for Africa, and for all that he has been able to accomplish in this field over these many years. His credits include organizing Band Aid to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, and the mega charity concert Live Aid in the 80s, utilizing the help of many musicians and recording artists. He was appointed an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth and was also a recipient of the Man of Peace title, recognizing him for making an outstanding contribution to international social justice and peace.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Besides continuing the awareness campaign to help stop online book piracy, I have donated my time Pro Bono to help out worthwhile causes where PR is concerned. This includes Ballet for All Kids which teaches dance instruction to special needs children and adults, and the Make A Film Foundation that teams A-list actors, producers, directors and writers with critically and terminally ill children. My other clients include WWII veteran, author and documentary film subject Leon Cooper, Heaven and Earth Oasis-a non-profit organization that provides holistic products and services to military veterans, and Valley View Vaulters, which teaches equestrian vaulting to special needs children.

What are your “5 things I wish someone had told me when I first started” and why?

When I was starting out as an author, I wish someone had told me about online book piracy. Like so many others, I had never heard about it. One thing I didn’t know was that the webhosting companies for these illegal sites are not at liberty to inform people who their clients are. As both the author and publisher, I wasn’t able to discover this information. In a strange sense these cyber criminals are “protected” by the law.

Remember to never “rest on your laurels” where your business is concerned. Even when times are good it’s smart to plan for that eventual rainy day. Also keep in mind that recessions can last a long time. Public relations and advertising are generally the first budgets to be “cut” in these precarious moments. When this happens, it is very important to be as patient and resourceful as possible, and to try and find more than one way to continue to look for new work.

At the time I went to college, getting a job afterwards was almost a “guarantee”. It never occurred to me that many years later, graduates are still living with their parents, and not necessarily employed. Also, at an advanced stage of the game, some might find themselves looking for work, and being forced to start all over again. Many people are also choosing not to retire. Additionally, I never would have fathomed all of the incredible technology that exists today, and how it has changed our world.

Choosing something practical to get into may be the smartest thing to do. Intangible careers although interesting and life-fulfilling, don’t always pay the bills. It’s still hard to understand that my chosen PR profession doesn’t properly communicate the message about what it is, what it does, or how it works. It’s ironic, but many people can’t define it, and confuse public relations with marketing, advertising or sales. It’s no one’s fault, as there really isn’t a clear cut and definitive definition. Even professionals in our industry have trouble getting its simple message across, and this can lead to confusion as to what it’s actually worth.

In-person networking is still one of the very best ways to get and keep clients. Even though social media has taken over, sometimes the old-fashioned way is still the best. Making eye contact with a person, and returning phone calls and messages today is almost a dying art. In our fast-paced world, many people think it’s acceptable to ignore someone by not getting back in a timely manner. When starting out, I never would have considered that this could now become the norm. In my opinion, sending out thank you notes and cards in the mail should never become a thing of the past.

Is there a person anywhere in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?

Without a doubt, the person who I would most like to meet is Paul McCartney. As a long-time Beatles fan and admirer of his talent, work and activism, he would be my number one pick. Ringo Starr and singer Donovan Leitch also comes to mind.

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